Monday, May 20, 2019
Chelsea Handler Handles ‘Jaws,’ Cannabis, Robert Mueller
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Chelsea Handler said her mother’s last words were “You don’t know your own strengths.”
 
Saturday, March 16, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Chelsea Handler's new book due out next week started with President Trump's election.

"I had a bit of an emotional breakdown after the election--so much so that I needed to see a psychiatrist," the 44-year-old comedian-actress told a full house of nearly 400 people at the Sun Valley Film Festival's Coffee Talk Thursday morning. "My outrage was really high. I was so negative, screaming...I had to get help."

It turned out, her psychiatrist said, that her outrage over Donald Trump was directed at her oldest brother who had fallen to his death while hiking in the Tetons at age 21. A big part of her brain had stayed trapped in her 9-year-old Chelsea. And that set the stage for exploring her psyche and uncovering revelations that she thought others could benefit from.

 
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Chelsea Handler described for George Prentice learning how her mother was Mormon when it came time to buy family plots in a Jewish cemetery.
 

And, so, she wrote "Life Will Be the Death of Me," which chronicles her year of self-discovery with the help of a nerdy but brilliant psychiatrist, a shaman, four Chow Chows and more.

It would have been selfish to have kept all she learned to her self when she could reach out and touch others, she said.

“I’m 44 now and, if I’m in this kind of pain and I’m successful, can you imagine what kind of pain we’re all in”? And some of us don’t have the resources that were available to me,” she said.

Handler, star of such shows as “Chelsea Lately” and “The Chelsea Handler Show,” provided a lively humor-laced hour of conversation about her life beginning with the moment her interviewer George Prentice stumbled over the title of her book as he introduced her.

"It's ‘Life Will Be the Death of Me!’" she shot out of the wings before darting back behind the curtains.

“It’s a full-on memoir,” Prentice said, making up for his tongue twisting fumble. “It’s hillarious. Then you find yourself crying. Sometimes all on the same page.”

Over the course of an hour Handler talked about her early fascination with "Jaws," her in-and-out fascination with her work and her current fascination with cannabis. Oh, and her passion for writing and skiing and her infatuation with Robert Mueller.

Handler said she grew up on Martha's Vineyard—her family home overlooking the site where they  filmed "Jaws." The ominous shark that starred in the movie psyched out her older brothers and sisters but failed to intimidate her since she was born in 1975--the same year they filmed it.

The theme to “Jaws” became her family’s music, she said. “It’ was comforting to me. I grew up thinking sharks were mechanical.”

Her family became broken over her brother’s death.

“I remember my father coming out of the house and saying, ‘He’s gone forever,’” she said.

Handler said she felt abandoned and rejected, as the last thing her brother had said to her was, “You’re never going to be without me.” As an Engineer, he represented upstanding, ethical—the opposite of her what her father, a car salesman represented

“Your oldest brother is like your first crush. He’s the guy. He’d take me everywhere with him,” she said. “Who knows what he would have become or what he was.”

Her mother, by contrast, was in the hospital a long time before her death.

“My brother was snatched from me. Not recoverable. When my mother died, I wanted to help her die and she wanted me to help her die. It was the first time I really showed up for my mother and not be a rebellious teen,” she said. “It’s so much easier to say goodbye when the person is in pain because you know it’s the right thing.”

Handler acknowledged that at some point the joy went out of doing her shows, as did her gratitude for having the success she did. She felt, she wrote in her book, exhausted by the meaningless of it all.

“After awhile, I didn’t watch my shows. I got sick of seeing myself all the time. I got sick of hearing my voice. I was thinking I wasn’t good enough.”

“I don’t want to be in that cycle again—too many people you’re responsible for,” she said, as she ticked off everyone from the people who keep the books to the hairdressers. “It became exhausting. It’s not my passion enough.”

Her psychiatrist helped her understand that it was because she was always moving, running from one show to the next, from one relationship to the next.

“I wasn’t raped. I wasn’t molested, which I think are horrible things. So how was it I could be in pain?.I had success, a beautiful house. Why did I feel pain?

“What’s my identity?" she added. "Why an I doing this? Am I just shouting at people on TV for a living?”

Handler credits cannabis for helping her calm down

“You just take a little mint and it just makes everything better,” she said. “I used to take Xanax all the time. But cannabis helps people with anxiety, autism, sleeping problems…The data and science behind it—let’s go for it,” she said to the applause of the audience.

Reminded that cannabis is outlawed in Idaho, she responded:

“I don’t know what to say about it. Utah, too. I was in Park City a couple weeks ago, and you can't get a drink there to save your life.”

Handler advocated for cannabis on a tour through Canada on behalf of a Canadian company that's educating people about it. She also hopes to be involved with a strain of cannabis that comes without the side effect of the munchies.

Handler said, that while she was a little burnt out by midterms, she will be involved in the next election. One of the silver linings of the Trump administration is the way it’s brought groups and movements together to stand up for things that need standing up for, she added.

It's your responsibility to fight for other people, she told the audience.

“You have to be in charge of your happiness. You’re in charge of your behavior. You have to wake up and decide you’re going to be in positive."

 

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